It would be hard to imagine a more beautiful time of the year than fall. Colored leaves, ripening pumpkins and crisp apples are highlights of the gardening season. Gardeners who faithfully pruned, thinned and sprayed their apples are now harvesting the fruits of their labors.
Each year I get numerous requests to identify or locate favorite apples. Spend some time searching farmers markets and fruit stands to find your favorites to purchase or grow in your yard.
There are over 10,000 different named varieties of apples, and it is impossible to cover all of them in this column. Most commercial varieties come from four different types. The most widely grown modern apple sprouted in Jesse Hiatt's orchard in Iowa in 1870. He cut the tree down twice but it resprouted and he finally let it grow. He thought it was a seedling of the Bellflower apple growing next to it. About 1880 it bore fruit that Hiatt thought was the best he had ever tasted. The name "Delicious" was given at a fruit show by Stark Nurseries, and "Red Delicious" began its rise to fame.
Jonathan apples came from a seedling sprouted in Kingston, N.Y., from the fruit of the Esopus Spitzeberg. Judge Buel of Albany, N.Y., found the apple so good that he presented specimens to the Massachusetts Horticulture Society and gave it the name "Jonathan" after the person who gave it to him. Jonathan was the principle variety in the United States before Delicious took over.
McIntosh came from the McIntosh nursery in Ontario, Canada. John McIntosh discovered it about 1811 but did not propagate grafted trees until 1835 when the technique was perfected. Golden Delicious was discovered by Stark's Nursery and possibly was a good seedling from Grimes Golden.
These are newer apples you may want to sample this fall. Not all produce well in our area.
- Jonagold is a cross between a Jonathan and Golden Delicious. It has a yellow green color with red stripes. It is good for cooking, fresh eating and stores very well.
- Empire is a cross between McIntosh and Delicious. It is dark red with firm, crisp, juicy flesh. Excellent for eating, it develops color much earlier than it ripens.
- Mutsu is a cross between Golden Delicious and a Japanese variety Indo. It is a large apple with greenish fruit. It is more tart than Golden Delicious and is an excellent cooking apple. It does not shrivel in storage.
- Granny Smith is a popular eating apple similar to Golden Delicious but is a brighter, glossier green with a more tart flavor. It is an excellent apple for fresh eating or cooking. It is generally not satisfactory for growing here as it requires a longer growing season.
- Melrose is a cross between Jonathan and Delicious. It resembles Jonathan in color and shape but is less tart. It is an excellent apple for fresh eating or cooking and stores very well. It is yellow with bright red color on top of the skin.
- Gala is a medium size round fruit with bright scarlet over orange skin. The fine-textured flesh is firm and it tastes like a spicy Golden Delicious. It ripens two weeks before Red Delicious and can be stored up to five months.
- Akane is sold under the name of Prime Red. It is a cross between a Jonathan and Worcester Per-main. It is bright red with a white, juicy flesh with an excellent aroma and flavor. Akane doesn't store well and ripens three weeks before Red Delicious.
- Fuji is a green apple with pink blush stripping. Fuji is a radiation-induced mutation that originated in Japan. The flavor is distinctive, with a white, crisp flesh. Fuji is a late season apple, maturing about the time of Granny Smith.
- Braeburn originated as a seedling in New Zealand. It is green with dark red shading. Braeburn stores well and has a mild, sweet flavor and aroma. It is a very late maturing apple and doesn't produce well here.
- Elstar is one of Europe's most sought-after apples. The apple is a Golden-type with red stripes on a yellow skin and has a sweet sharp flavor. Elstar stores well and is an excellent pollinator. It ripens 3 weeks before Red Delicous.
Whatever your taste in apples you will find some favorites among the 10,000 different varieties. Spend ample time this fall tasting and testing and you will be better prepared to choose those that will be the best additions to your backyard orchard.